How To Be A Heroine | Or, what I’ve learned from reading too much | by Samantha Ellis

How To Be A Heroine

How To Be A Heroine | Or, what I’ve learned from too much reading has been on my radar for a while, but now seemed like the perfect time to read it since it deals with something I’m currently working on a blog post about; the idea that the time, place and state of mind you are in plays a significant part in how you react to novels, plays, films, and music.

Samantha Ellis finds herself arguing with her best friend about whether Cathy Earnshaw is a better heroine than Jane Eyre. Ellis is firmly in the Cathy camp, while her friend thinks that Jane is the one who really makes her own way in the world.

Has she spent her life trying to be Cathy Earnshaw when she should have been trying to be Jane Eyre? A return to the literary heroines that shaped her life was in order. How did she feel about them now?

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The Opposite of Loneliness – Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness

Like most people, I first heard about Marina Keegan following her death in 2012. She was killed in a car crash a few days after graduating from Yale. She was 22.

The essay, entitled The Opposite of Loneliness, she wrote to mark graduation quickly went viral. Dealing with uncertainty, Keegan’s words urged people to be fearless, embrace change and stop being constrained by expectations; both their own and the expectations of others. It’s easy to see why it struck a chord with so many.

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The Humans by Matt Haig

The Humans by Matthew Haig

What are humans? What is the human condition? These questions are at the heart of Matt Haig’s wonderful novel The Humans and how better to explore the answers than through the eyes of an alien.

The alien is sent to earth to inhabit the body of Professor Andrew Martin of Cambridge University. He has a mission to complete. A mission that may not be as easy it sounds because the business of having to be a human keeps getting in the way.

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Green Girl by Kate Zambreno

Green Girl

Have you ever come across a book that is a few years old, but suddenly you hear lots of talk about it? That’s what happened to me with Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl. Some friends recommended I read it and then I came across it in Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.

Ruth is a young American woman living in London. She sells perfume in Horrids (her name for it). Her days are spent spritzing people with Desire. Her nights are spent trying to find her way in the world; navigating her way through anxiety, friendships, relationships, nights out that involve drinking too much and the male gaze. More importantly, Ruth is desperately trying to make sense of the space between where she is now and what she deems to be proper adulthood.

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Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Only Ever Yours

Set in a future where girls are taught how to serve and please men, Only Ever Yours is a sharply written portrayal of teenage girls and the role of women in society.

freida and isabel (their names aren’t capitalised in the book) are best friends. They are also eves. They have been created for men and face a life spent living as a companion, a concubine or a chastity.

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Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist (Kindle)

I’ve linked to some of Roxane Gay’s essays before. Since discovering her work in 2013, she has become one of my favourite essayists. Bad Feminist has been on my to-read list since it was released and the Kindle sale over Christmas provided the perfect opportunity to pick it up.

In parts memoir, reviews, critiques of pop culture, and comments on the state of contemporary feminism Bad Feminist switches between them all in a confident manner that highlights how everything is intertwined.

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Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver

 

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

From the opening sentence, the scene is set. Oliver Ryan has hit his wife, Alice, before. On this occasion Alice has been left in coma.

What sort of a man would psychically abuse his wife? This question is at the heart of Unravelling Oliver. As we delve deeper into the life of Oliver Ryan we realise this isn’t an easy question to answer. But then it isn’t in real life either. How many times have we heard variations on “man of good character” when it comes to violence against women?

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The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

If I’ve ever bought you a book as a present, loaned you a book or just recommended a book to you then there’s a good chance that it was ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham. It is my favourite novel and I like to share it.

‘The Hours’ won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1999 and was adapted into a film starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore in 2002 so I suspect everyone is familiar with the story by now, even if they haven’t read the book.

Cunningham tells the story of three women who have all been affected, in some way, by Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.

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Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

There comes a time in most people’s life when they read a book that changes their outlook so profoundly that they want to thrust it into the arms of others and demand that they read it ASAP, for me that book is Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi.


Subtitled A Story of Loss and Gain, you know you’re in for a painful read from the get go but I wasn’t expecting it to be this heart wrenching, even after watching de Rossi’s interview on Oprah.


Opening with the revelation that she is regularly woken from her slumber by the voice inside her that continually asks ‘What did you eat last night?’, Unbearable Lightness dives straight into de Rossi’s life during the filming of Ally McBeal when her eating disorder really came to the fore.

de Rossi interweaves her early life with that of life in LA, from becoming a model at age 12, changing her name at 15 (she was born Amanda Lee Rogers), to landing her first acting role and the decision to drop out of law school to pursue acting in the US. 


It’s all dealt with in simple but powerful prose directly from the eye of the storm because de Rossi decided to speak from the heart of the issue rather than as a healthy person looking back making it obvious what was going through her mind at any given point in time.


Inevitably this book also deals with de Rossi’s battle to accept her sexuality and it’d be hard to imagine not including this aspect because at certain times this struggle seems (to me at least,) to enable her to fall deeper into her eating disorder. By that I mean, it seems that she felt she couldn’t control one aspect of her life so turned all her attention to following a strict diet and exercise regime which spiralled out of control and led to both bulimia and anorexia.

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